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Recipe for a perfect EWB retreat

I had the opportunity to attend such a retreat in July with all Junior Fellows, Long-Term Fellows, Kumvana Fellows plus a number of EWB’s national office staff and management members at Lake Naivasha, in Kenya.

The recipe

Step 1: Bring together, for the duration of a weekend, a handful of young impact-driven professionals in an open and creative environment.

Step 2: Ask them to prepare a short seminar about any close-to-their-heart subject imaginable to share with their fellows.

Step 3: Design activities to generate an organizational culture of critical-thinking and knowledge sharing.

Step 4: Make sure the retreat is close to a gorgeous national park and a hippo-infested lake.

Step 5: Verify that activities won’t start before 8h30 in the morning to enable this young and energetic crowd to have an optimal amount of time to socialize during the evening (oh…wait).  

And these are pretty much the steps you need to undertake to create a memorable retreat!

My experience

I had the opportunity to attend such a retreat in July with all Junior Fellows, Long-Term Fellows, Kumvana Fellows plus a number of EWB’s national office staff and management members at Lake Naivasha, in Kenya.

Just getting to Nairobi before the retreat was a lot of fun and an adventure on its own!  We took the bus from Kampala at 7 pm to Nairobi, where we were supposed to arrive in the morning, allowing us to discover the capital of Kenya for the rest of the day.

In East-Africa, transport can be quite “unpredictable.” At around 10 pm, driving past Jinja and approaching the border, a weird smell started to emanate from the engine. Soon enough, the bus stopped on the side of the road at a random police station in the middle of nowhere, far away from any kind of street food stand…engine trouble.

They had to send another bus to get us all the way from Kampala, which took a fair amount of time. The Ugandan fellows and I ended up arriving in Nairobi at around 4 pm, leaving us close to no time to explore the African metropole. Exploring Nairobi will have to wait for another day!

All the amazing EWB people

I was truly amazed by how every single person that attended this event was inspiring in their own ways. Never in my life did I meet so many passionate, thriving, intelligent, open-minded individuals in a short period of time. Perhaps it is the environment that was created that enabled me to learn about those people quickly? Perhaps EWB hires individuals who are exceptionally remarkable?

What facilitated this level of connection is also probably the fact that all of us are living in similar but different experiences in our own ventures. For instance, some ventures might be going through the restructuring of the business model while other ventures might be going through the struggle of reaching for their first clients. Some fellows might be worried about their future beyond their year abroad while others are experiencing difficulties with the leadership of their organization. The retreat really created a space where it was possible to talk about those issues and to suggest solutions, ideas.

To see the variety of ways that fellows are experiencing their journey abroad and the attached challenges was eye-opening. It made me wonder how different my experience could have been in a different organization or country. It made me think about what different types of learnings I would have done in another venture. One thing is sure, the learning and experience that came from the retreat was unique in the best way possible.

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